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Medicine and the Holocaust: a visit to the Nazi death camps as a means of teaching medical ethics in the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps
  1. Anthony S Oberman1,2,
  2. Tal Brosh-Nissimov2,
  3. Nachman Ash2
  1. 1General practitioner, The Medical Center, Ashdod, Israel
  2. 2IDF Medical Corps, Israel
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anthony S Oberman, 2/5 David Elazer Street, Raanana 43205, Israel; anthonyo{at}


A novel method of teaching military medical ethics, medical ethics and military ethics in the Israel Defense Force (IDF) Medical Corps, essential topics for all military medical personnel, is discussed. Very little time is devoted to medical ethics in medical curricula, and even less to military medical ethics. Ninety-five per cent of American students in eight medical schools had less than 1 h of military medical ethics teaching and few knew the basic tenets of the Geneva Convention. Medical ethics differs from military medical ethics: the former deals with the relationship between medical professional and patient, while in the latter military physicians have to balance between military necessity and their traditional priorities to their patients. The underlying principles, however, are the same in both: the right to life, autonomy, dignity and utility. The IDF maintains high moral and ethical standards. This stems from the preciousness of human life in Jewish history, tradition and religious law. Emphasis is placed on these qualities within the Israeli education system; the IDF teaches and enforces moral and ethical standards in all of its training programmes and units. One such programme is ‘Witnesses in Uniform’ in which the IDF takes groups of officers to visit Holocaust memorial sites and Nazi death camps. During these visits daily discussions touch on intricate medical and military ethical issues, and contemporary ethical dilemmas relevant to IDF officers during active missions.

  • Medical ethics
  • military medical ethics
  • war
  • Holocaust
  • history of health ethics/bioethics
  • general
  • philosophy of medicine
  • torture and genocide

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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